AFP admits one of its officers maintained account taken down by Facebook

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2020 08:34 PM

MANILA - The Philippine military on Thursday admitted one of its Army officers maintained an account recently taken down by Facebook purportedly for "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesman of the Philippine Army, said the personal Facebook account of Capt. Alexandre Cabales, who was earlier identified by the US-based Digital Forensic Research Lab as among operators of the banned accounts, was also removed.

The Hands Off Our Children (HOOC) page, for which Cabales serves as administrator, is one of the Facebook accounts that were taken down by the social media company, according to Zagala.

The HOOC is described to be a platform for parents whose children were allegedly recruited by the communist New People's Army, which authorities regard as a terrorist organization.

"He (Cabales) was asked. He agreed," Zagala said, adding the incumbent head of the Social Media Center of the Army's Civil Military Operations Regiment accepted the HOOC administrator role because of his advocacy against the communist rebels.

"We don't see anything wrong because these are parents who are advocating safety of children...Part of the thrust of the Philippine Army is to stop recruitment so that there will be no more insurgency," said Zagala.

"He handles our social media training and social media platform, the Kalinaw News... His job is inform, through Kalinaw News, give accurate information. He also do training to other CMO units of the Philippine Army on how set up their Facebook or whatever social media accounts as a platform, as a tool of civil military operation."

The Philippine Army's 'Kalinaw News' account on Facebook continues to exist. 

Zagala disclosed that Cabales belongs to the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2008 and had served as spokesman of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, based in Davao de Oro.

The Army vouches for his integrity and holds him in high esteem, Zagala said of Cabales.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay urged Facebook officials in a virtual meeting Wednesday to restore the account of HOOC and other accounts that are against child exploitation and terrorism.

Gapay said the AFP regrets Facebook's move to take down the HOOC page, as it is "a campaign launched by a group of parents who are fighting to protect their children against violent extremism."

Gapay said HOOC's "grievances are legitimate, and their calls, urgent."

"Their Facebook Page was instrumental to their campaign to raise awareness on the vulnerability of children at the hands of communist front organizations. Its arbitrary shutdown adds to the limited spaces afforded to them and the unsympathetic ears of some sectors," said Gapay.

Facebook on Wednesday said several social-media accounts belonging to two networks -- one based in China, the other with links to individuals associated with the Philippine military and police -- were found to have violated its policies. 

The social-networking company said it has thus removed pages, accounts, groups and Instagram profiles of the two unnamed networks, which were allegedly targeting the Philippines for "coordinated inauthentic behavior" or manipulation campaigns on the platform.

Fifty-seven Facebook accounts, 31 pages and 20 Instagram accounts, which constituted one network operating in the Philippines, were taken down, Facebook's Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher told reporters in a virtual briefing that he conducted from California.